(Note: I wrote this on Friday to post today. But in light of the killing of police in LA over the weekend, I just want to say, I am not trying to be divisive nor am I ignoring the issue we have with violence and hatred. Wide Angle Lens is about perspective and looking at things from different angles–in this case, from a mother’s POV.)
I had a response to my recent post (“All Lives vs. Black Lives”)* from a mom, who happens to be white, and who has three black children. “As the mother of black children, thank you for writing this article…When I hear people reply “ALL lives matter,” I don’t know how to explain to them why it grieves me so.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about that. She didn’t say, “why it angers me.” She said, “why it grieves me.” I replied: “It would be a step in the right direction if someone actually asked you how you felt. And listened to why it grieves you. And cared enough to stop arguing philosophically that all lives matter. You are a mom to black children and you experience things we don’t…”
So I asked her, and this is a portion of her response.
“Honestly, no one has ever asked me that…That grieves me because, I know, one day soon, my son (age 9), will be a tall strong black man who already turns has in our very white community. At this point, they’re always with me and it’s—oh, your kids are so cute—but what happens when my son is old enough to go into the grocery store by himself?
“I have talked with enough parents of black children to know that is not uncommon to see your teenager followed by security, or questioned at checkout, or simply eyed with suspicion by other customers. Already I find myself telling him not to wear his hood in public and to dress nicely…I hate that my mind goes there…I want to make sure he doesn’t look like the stereotypical, often black man, with baggy pants, hood and sunglasses about to rob a convenience store…Those are the images put in our heads by the media that could cause people to look upon MY boy with suspicion.
“In the end, I must trust God with my children, as all moms do—but there is an extra layer of fear there, I guess, because they are black—and people, police and otherwise, can react out of fear…But as the parent to black children, I feel like I have to consider a lot of different things than I would otherwise. “Black lives matter” is personal because I look at three little black faces every single day and wonder what kind of world they will be given. THEIR lives matter.”
I had to acknowledge that I have never, not one single day, ever thought about any of those things for my children. With our white communities and our predominantly white schools and white jobs, it’s easy to think it’s not a thing.
Only when we really look at history, at our superior perspective, and at those living among us, with real faces and real hearts, that we can begin to change. We have been good at defending ourselves, bringing accusation, and ignoring grief. It will take everything in us to sit beside people in the messiness of their pain. it will take a deeply rooted belief that love is the only answer and that the momentary chaos can maybe give way to new order.
I don’t believe “All lives matter” erects bridges. We have too many attempted bridges leading nowhere in this country. Grieving hearts need compassionate ears. Maybe recognizing grief will help us take that step toward healing. This has been declared the Year of Mercy. I am praying that we take steps to demonstrate mercy–a posture of leaning in and embracing. Because mercy might be the only way out.